And we have pitched our tent on the one decent camping spot available in the immediate area.
Good camping spots have 3 things in common:That there is water near by, the little stream here had almost dried out, and the roaring river, that is hidden in the gorge to my right on the photo, was a strenuous hike away, but we could extract enough water of the trickle of the stream to make do for cooking, washing hands, doing the dishes. Water is such a gift, really. The assurance of survival.
Then the spot has to be more or less dry, unless of course it's raining, then you take what you can get, and quite importantly the surface has to be more or less horizontal and quite even. Big rocks under the tent can make falling asleep a hard task. This spot has it all, and all around it the area rolled up and away from the valley. There was just the perfect spot for this one tent. More about that later.
Earlier to day we crossed Julep Vassjagåsj (vassjagåsj means river in Same, tjåkkå is mountain and vaggi is valley and here ends my short introduction to the Same langauge) and it proved a bit more complicated than we had anticipated. One of the big challenges of the hike is crossing the rivers, that on the map look like tiny veins threading down from the mountains to the valley, and seeing them at a distance is so deceptive. They often look smaller with good stones to step on, the distance between perfect for taking a big step. In reality the force of the rivers can be very intimidating close up and slipping in a stream could worse case scenario mean the end of our trip, Or just that we get soaked. The stuff in our backpacks are pretty protected in plastic-bags for exactly that reason.
It took us time to decide on a place to cross Julep, We spent a long time hiking up and down trying to find a place, where the riverbed was wider and shallower. Then we took of our boots and put on our Nike Airs, that are doubling as wading-shoes on this trip. Wading barefoot is a no go. Hurting a foot, stubbing a toe, cutting the soles of the feet would create trouble for the rest of the trip. We depend so much on our feet to be happy and healthy.
Having crossed Julep we head for her bróther Alep; we had a lengthy discussion about whether Alep was the sister and Julep the brother but settled for the other way around and nobody was there to argue their case against us.
We had kept high ground all day, but as we got close to the Alep Vassjagåsj, we realized that it had spent the last thousands or millions of years cutting itself deep into the rock. The river was lodged deep into the canyon. There was no way we could get down to the water here, and there seemed to be no other stream where we were, so no water and ergo no camping spot. And here we got into a bit of an argument, I must admit. We knew there was supposed to be a good camping spot somewhere here, but we disagreed on where that might be. I suggested we hiked down into the canyon to see if it was down there. Johannes strongly disagreed and wanted us to maybe go back a little bit and down into the valley, where we also knew there was a campground, which I didn't like the thought of at all. I really wanted to stay at the river and go for a dip.
In the middle of our heated argument we realized that we had misread the map. We had to go further down alongside the river. We were too high up.
At that point it really dawned on me that we can't afford to argue here. We depend on eachother completely. We need to be friends and not succumb to childish arguments of who's right who's wrong. And also it makes the journey together so much more pleasurable. I think of all the times, I have walked away from an argument, which is my tendency. Here there is nowhere to go to. We have to stay together. We need eachother. At home winning an argument can seem really satisfactory for the part of me that wants to be right. Here what is important is not right or wrong, but the friendship that means survival. We have to cooperate ... or die. Sort of. When you are a small flock, everyone in the flock or the pack is needed. At home we have lost the sense of this need for connection and the reality of interdependence. Here it's so obvious. We didn't argue again on the trip. I could feel myself getting annoyed sometimes, when I KNEW I was right, but then Johannes KNEW he was right too.
It was a much greater joy to just let it go, and see where the other perspective would take me. The unknown perspective. The perspective of the other.
Having pitched the tent and realized that this Paradise is tainted by the presence of monstrous biting flies that sneak silently in on us like spies, settle in on a bit of flesh, preferably on the back of the body where it's harder to see them and then sink their teeth in to our warm skin to suck our blood. Unlike the mosquitoes that seem to prefer Johannes, these like my smell too. After having made their acquaintance I make for the river.
I don't know for sure, that I can make my way down into the canyon, but I am set on trying. Johannes asks a bit exasperated why I can't just relax, but then he joins me for about five minutes, before he decides to turn around. I continue down along the canyon on a path, that is probably the path we will follow down into the valley tomorrow.
After about ten minutes there is a ledge with a muddy path that leads down to the perfect swimming platform at the river. Smooth rocks shaped by the current through millennia. There is a rock shaped like a slide, that just fits, so I can sit in it and let the water wash over me. Icy water! I spend a few minutes in and then get out to warm myself in the sun, then in again. It is so delicious that I decide to get Johannes.
We strip naked and it is while Johannes is busy scrubbing his private parts I notice a couple of hikers struggling uphill from the valley - We notice eachother simultaneously and they stop dead in their tracks as a long moment of discomfort on both sides unfolds. How to tackle two wild nudists ....
We dress out of consideration for their apparent embarrassment and they come up to chat a bit and exchange valuable imformation. They have come up the path we will be taking tomorrow, and they talk of mosquitoes and heat and the mud on their pants are more revealing than words. I kind of dread the hike in the valley tomorrow. They are sweating profusely, but continue uphill resisting the temptation to wash off the sweat or maybe out of consideration for us. After all meeting so few people out here we can afford consideration. They were obviously going for the spot we are camping on and will now have to continue quite a bit to find another one. This time we were the lucky ones.
We make our way back up to the tent, refreshed and a little apprehensive about the hike tomorrow, where we first make our way down into the valley and then follow the river. Heat, mosquitoes, wading, mud, shrubbery awaits.
The sun sets and Johannes has built a fire of a bit of wood, he has collected. The evening is cool and I wrap my sleepingbag around me for warmth. It's been a good day, and I feel like I have finally landed. I can finally feel the silence penetrate and settle in me. This is good. An eagle cries somewhere on the other side of the valley and we see it circle on an upgoing stream and my heart follows it in a spiralmovement up into the darkening sky.